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Stock Photos Shouldn’t Suck

Images are a vital ingredient to success on the internet. Social media posts, websites, and blogs all need high-quality photos to draw attention. But if you’ve ever spent time looking for free pictures on the internet, you know the difficulty of finding quality images to include with your content.
If you’re willing to pay, sites like Shutterstock offer a wide range of quality photos, but who wants to drop $10 every time you post a Facebook update? There are a lot of free stock photo options, but the majority are terrible. Really terrible. Fortunately, there are a few options that provide high-quality photos for designers, business owners, and social media users. This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers my five favorite sources (with a few bonus options) for quality, free photos:

StockSnap

StockSnap is my go-to site for free stock photos. It features a powerful search and adds hundreds of new images every week. You can also filter the photos by date, trending, views, and downloads – which can be helpful for seeing what’s popular.
StockSnap is a widely popular site, so you will see the photos used a lot across the internet. Not necessarily a problem, but if you’re looking for originality StockSnap might not be the site for you.

Pexel

There are very few differences between StockSnap and Pexel – in both layout and content. It features an easy-to-use search bar, has a wide range of options, and is constantly updated. There is a lot of content overlap with StockSnap, but if I’m looking for something very specific I’ll try both sites.
Pexel has been improving recently and is in the running to become my go-to source for free stock photos.

Unsplash

Unsplash doesn’t have the inventory or update rate of StockSnap or Pexel but makes up for the lack of quantity with high quality. Unsplash uploads ten new images every ten days – and so they are picky with what they post.
The photos on Unsplash tend toward expansive and beautiful. There’s a lot of impressive landscapes and artistic looks – you’ll be hard pressed to find any typical office-based stock photos here. Unsplash is the place to go if you’re looking to make an impression.

PicJumbo

PicJumbo is the work of a single photographer named Viktor Hanacek. But before you write off PicJumbo for being too narrow, give it a look. Viktor posts an impressive range of photos, with several new offerings each day.
Hanacek is based out of the Czech Republic, so many of the images have a European feel. However, the indoor work, human studies, landscapes, and food images are all universal in their appeal. Because PicJumbo features the work of a single artist, the feel and quality of the photos remain remarkably consistent.

Gratisography

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Check out Gratisography. Like PicJumbo, Gratisography features the work of a single artist – Ryan McGuire. There’s definitely a style on display here. While it might not be for everyone, McGuire’s work is creative, colorful, and full of life.
It is the opposite of the typical business stock photography and can bring some serious fun to your work. The site itself is well-designed and easy to navigate with options to browse, filter, or search. I don’t use Gratisography, but when I need something creative it is my first choice.

Bonus Round

The five options listed above are my favorites, but something I’m looking for something very specific and I have to dig deeper. Here are four more sites that I use for free stock images:

  • Pixabay – File this one with StockSnap and Pexel as a very traditional stock photo site.
  • FreeImages – A huge directory of images – so you must filter through some garbage to find the gems
  • New Old Stock – Vintage photos for when you need that retro flair
  • Picography – Another single photographer site – this one by Dave Meier

A Word About Licenses

Most images you find on the internet are subject to copyright restrictions. That means you can’t do a Google image search and snag any picture you find (at least not legally). So it important to understand what photos you are allowed to use.
Free images generally fall under two licensing categories: creative commons zero and creative commons with attribution. Creative commons zero means that you can use and modify the image for any use you want. Creative commons with attribution allows the same use, but require you give credit to the artist.
Most of the sites I posted above use the creative commons zero licenses, but the best practice is to always verify that before using a photo. You don’t need your business in hot water over a stock image.

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